A minuscule handwritten poem by Charlotte Brontë, composed when the author was just 13, has been sold for almost £100,000.
Signed C Brontë, and dated by her on 14 December 1829, “I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods” is written on a piece of paper measuring just three inches square, and is difficult to read without a magnifying glass. Charlotte and her siblings all wrote in a tiny hand, to make the most of a scarce and expensive paper supply, but they were also short-sighted, so would have been able to see what they were writing themselves, even it was illegible to others.
The manuscript was sold by Bonhams as part of the collection of the poet and scholar Roy Davids: it had been given an estimated sale price of £40,000-£45,000, but went for more than double that, selling for £92,450. The Brontë poem, said the auction house, is “extremely rare”, because although the author would go on to write around 200 poems, the “vast majority” are in institutions, with “perhaps no more than four” in private hands.
“I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods” is a celebration of nature, with the precocious young poet elaborating on how she has “been to the distant mountain,/ To the silver singing rill/ By the crystal murmering fountain,/ And the shady verdant hill.” It appeared in a printed version in the literary magazine The Young Man’s Intelligencer, which was produced by the Brontë children for their own enjoyment. Charlotte took over as editor from her brother Branwell in 1829.
I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods by Charlotte Brontë
I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods
And mid flowery smiling plains
I’ve been listening to the dark floods
To the thrushes thrilling strains
I have gathered the pale primrose
And the purple violet sweet
I’ve been where the Asphodel grows
And where lives the red deer fleet.
I’ve been to the distant mountain,
To the silver singing rill
By the crystal murmering fountain,
And the shady verdant hill.
I’ve been where the poplar is springing
From the fair Inamelled ground
Where the nightingale is singing
With a solemn plaintive sound.
• This article was amended on 11 April 2013. The original transcription of the poem referred to the crystal murmering [sic] mountain rather than fountain. This has been corrected.
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